Fred Willard is considered one of the most beloved performers in Hollywood, and his death on Friday has left the industry shaken. Willard had more than 300 television and movie credits to his name, stretching back to the mid-1960s. Jamie Lee Curtis, Henry Winkler, Jimmy Kimmel, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Steve Carell are just a handful of celebrities who have shared their condolences on social media.
Willard's publicist confirmed Saturday that the Best In Show star died from natural causes. He was 86 years old. "My father passed away very peacefully last night at the fantastic age of 86 years old. He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end. We loved him so very much," Willard's daughter, Hope, said in a statement released by his agent. "We will miss him forever."
Willard worked right up until his death. He filmed 10 episodes of Netflix's upcoming Space Force, a sitcom created by The Office's Greg Daniels and Carell. In the series, Willard plays the father of Carell's character. Carell called Willard "the funniest person" he ever worked with and a "sweet, wonderful man." The two also worked together on the two Anchorman movies with Will Ferrell.
Sadly, Willard's last tweet was a tribute to another comedy icon. Earlier this week, the legendary Jerry Stiller died, just days after Rock and Roll icon Little Richard's passing. "I met him in the 60s when we played in the same clubs in The Village as he and Anne Meara. Unfortunately for us, they were much funnier! We couldn't be jealous, so we became good friends instead," Willard wrote in his final tweet.
Fred Willard was the funniest person that I've ever worked with. He was a sweet, wonderful man.— Steve Carell (@SteveCarell) May 16, 2020
There was no man sweeter or funnier. We were so lucky to know Fred Willard and will miss his many visits https://t.co/joHM39o8k4— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) May 16, 2020
Jamie Lee Curtis
How lucky that we all got to enjoy Fred Willard’s gifts. He is with his missed Mary now. Thanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard. Best in Show (7/11) Movie CLIP - Judging the Hounds (2000) HD https://t.co/wPrbk9VjWI via @YouTube— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) May 16, 2020
RIP Fred Willard ..you were incomparable— Henry Winkler (@hwinkler4real) May 16, 2020
Just learned of Fred Willard's passing. Just about the funniest human ever to walk the planet. An amazing talent, in telekinetic contact with the very wellspring of comedy.— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) May 16, 2020
Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Rest In Peace sweet @Fred_Willard. You will always be a true original and I am so honored that our lives intersected. No one will ever come close to replacing your genius.— Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) May 16, 2020
It was a privilege to have the great Fred Willard know my name. Rest In Peace Fred. You were funny in your bones. pic.twitter.com/PlFTCHFZCK— Eric Stonestreet (@ericstonestreet) May 16, 2020
Nobody funnier than #FredWillard. And when he happened to be in an audience, nobody laughed harder. Just saw him before quarantine & already miss him. He was my biggest fan and I am his. Fred & Mary were so kind to me. Sending a big virtual hug to his family, friends and fans pic.twitter.com/XAIsVzuwEs— Jeff Ross (@realjeffreyross) May 16, 2020
Devastated to learn that the great Fred Willard has died. I was honored to have called him a friend. One of the funniest, nicest, sweetest, purest souls I have ever had the privilege to know. He was my hero from Fernwood Tonight when I was a kid. He was never not funny. RIP Fred.— Paul Feig (@paulfeig) May 16, 2020
I’m at a loss for words, a state Fred Willard never found himself in. My friend for 40+ years, a great comic actor who had no competition because there was only one of him. We were all so lucky. Goodbye, Fred.— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) May 16, 2020